Gold, silver or bronze: what will the TEF results mean for your brand?

Gold, silver or bronze: what will the TEF results mean for your brand?

Results for the latest TEF were released on Wednesday 6 June, with 17% of the institutions who entered this year’s exercise receiving Gold, 47% Silver and 36% Bronze. But what’s the best way to use these rankings for your brand’s benefit? And what do students (and prospective students) make of TEF?

This is the third year the TEF has been undertaken and although it remains voluntary, around 300 universities and colleges participate and have awards. This year there were some tweaks to the methodology, which some have said may enhance institutions’ ratings without them having to lift a finger.  Or at least, analysis by WonkHE shows an upward movement for certain kinds of institutions.

But as student marketers, you’ll want to know how your prospective students are reacting to the TEF awards, if at all, and how Gold, Silver and Bronze influence their decisions, right?

What do students (and prospective students) think about TEF?

Last year there was a mostly positive sentiment across the web concerning TEF shortly after they were released (12.5% against 2.2% for negative comments), with the majority of the negative sentiments around the ranking’s methodology. But, what about students’ opinions?

In 2017, Times Higher Education interviewed current students at universities who had been awarded Bronze, Silver or Gold to hear their thoughts on their institutions’ ratings, which revealed some very mixed opinions. And a report commissioned by a consortium of student unions the same year showed overall support for a rating system along the lines of TEF, and 50% of respondents said they would have reconsidered or not applied to their institution if they’d known it had received a Bronze award.

But what if students were not asked specific questions about TEF? Do students talk about TEF? Do they know what it is and more importantly, do they think they’re meaningful?

Last week there were 3,028 mentions of the TEF awards on social media, peaking on Wednesday 6th at 11am when the results were released. Of these mentions, 87% had a positive sentiment with the remaining remarks having negative connotations around the subjects and flaws in the methodology.

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And of these conversations only 20% were taking place between those aged between 18-24, suggesting that the awards are not top of the agenda for students on social. But, of the conversations students were having, the majority consisted of students asking peers whether the TEF awards were something to consider. So, although there seems to be only a small handful of students aware of the TEF awards, those that are aware of them, want to know whether they should be considering these results when making their higher education choices.

How can you use your TEF results to your advantage?

If you managed to bag Gold, I’m sure you’ll already be using the award to boost your brand and are thinking of ways to incorporate the achievement in your advertising campaigns. And what better way than to communicate your achievements on social? We caught up with Dave Musson, Natives’ Social Media Guru and Editor-in-Chief of The Native, to grab some top tips on the best ways to utilise social media to show off your award.

“Pardon the pun, but TEF results can be social media gold; there are three things you can post on your channels that will guarantee you a shedload of engagement – cute animals, your campus buildings in any weather and good news. Your TEF result is good news, so post about it!

“You really don’t have to reinvent the wheel either; simply be enthusiastic, have pride, use emojis knock up some coloured graphics to match your award and watch the likes and shares come rolling in. It really is that simple – just look at how Keele and Coventry broke the news of their gold awards last year. And, if you’ve got the time and/or the resources available, maybe make a short video explaining the award, what it means to your institution and your reaction to your award – Loughborough did something similar last year and it worked nicely.

“For added shareability, don’t be afraid to push your ranking offline too; last year, Aston University celebrated their gold award by handing out a load of branded golden chocolate bars on their open day and even installing a Crystal Maze-style dome full of gold tokens to grab.

“And how about making use of Spotify too and linking out to a relevant song for your ranking? Take your pick from Bronze Medal by Idlewild, Silver by Hundred Reasons and, of course, Gold by Spandau Ballet.

“Basically, have fun and take pride in your award!”

Hopefully this should give you plenty to think about in terms of utilising the TEF awards to reach and engage with students. If you’d like to speak one of our experts on the best ways to work these awards into your student recruitment strategy, get in touch.